It is imprudent to imagine that China, or any country for that matter, can be won over by effusive or exuber- ant overtures or by the grandeur of the reception during State/official visits of heads of States/governments.
Countries are, will be, and should be, hard as nails when
it comes to protecting what they regard as their own
national interests. This maxim most of all applies to China
which is self-willed and whose successes in political consolidation, social engineering and economic regeneration
have colored its policies and stances with self-importance
None among world leaders went as far as Jawaharlal
Nehru did to prop up China as an emerging great power:
He went all out at Bandung to build up Zhou en Lai; he
handed over Tibet to China on a platter; he extolled the
two countries as bhai-bhai; he looked the other way when
China was gobbling up territory under the suzerainty and
control of India; he kept canvassing for China’s admission
to the United Nations even after it inflicted the humiliation of 1962.
In the final reckoning did any of
these work? No. Similarly, nothing
of all that was laid out for Chinese
President Xi Jinping during his
visit to India will work; indeed, by
timing its muscle-flexing in Ladakh
to coincide with Xi’s visit, China
made it evident that neither the
swing-ride at Ahmedabad nor the
red carpet at New Delhi worked.
So, the best approach to China is
not to waste time, effort and money
on public relations extravaganzas,
but to deal with it on a strictly professional and dignified plane, maintaining a degree of reserve and
gravitas, and putting in public
domain what India regards as the
minimum essential guarantee it
expects from China for harmonious
relations based on mutual respect.
In doing so, India should not
worry about any impact on investment from China. The kind of
money pledged is a pittance compared to India’s requirements.
In any case, Foreign Direct
Investment constitutes a minuscule
part of India’s economy. If only
India capitalizes on the huge
advantages it has in terms of the
domestic market, unorganized sector and the rural potential (to cite
just a few examples), ensures proper maintenance of its existing infra-structural assets and works them to
optimal capacity, raises its project
management capabilities and
improves its work culture, it can
add three to four percentage points
to its GDP without expending a single rupee.
It is futile to run after the niggardly amounts these
much hyped visits fetch without first eradicating the
weaknesses within. Persistence of those weaknesses will
make the amounts coming from outside go down the
drain as well.
India cannot win against world players on their terms
and in battlefields of their choosing, and, therefore,
should do what Japan in the years after the World War II
did quietly and without fuss: Develop its inherent
strengths to the full by tapping the enormous treasure
house of talents and skills it is.
Nor need India hanker after technology from abroad.
Again, Japan is a good example of what judo strategy
(converting one’s vulnerabilities into strengths) can do for
India’s scientific community and domain professionals
are second to none, and freed from the shackles and
strangleholds of the outmoded and colonial systems and
attitudes, and given clear and firm directions as to what is
expected of them, they can achieve miracles.
Take nuclear technology, for instance. The so-called civil
nuclear deal is a red herring. India’s present nuclear
power generating capacity is less than 4 percent of the
total installed capacity, and even if India dilutes the liability criteria and the United States, Japan, China, Russia
and France line up to supply us nuclear plants for the asking, there is no way nuclear power component can
become a significant factor.
If India has to go in for nuclear power at all, the right
and relevant technology is the one based on thorium, of
which it has the world’s largest quantity in nature ready to
be extracted. It can score over all other countries in this
respect. The technology is within its reach, but has gone
by default because of ignorance and lack of will, as also
want of encouragement to the scientists in the field.
Likewise, India’s scientists can master any other tech-
nology too. Thus, it is not such a critical factor as to com-
pel the government to pull all stops to keep countries like
China or Japan in good humor.
India’s policy towards China is burdened by many other
blinkers. First is the belief that the route to an amicable
settlement of the border dispute is through expanding
economic and trade relations.
For China, what it has repeatedly declared to be its ‘core
interests’ are immutable, inviolate and inviolable, and the
first among the core interests to which it attaches paramount importance is preserving national sovereignty, territorial integrity, security and unification (the reference,
presumably, is to Taiwan) and no amount of sops from
any of the countries affected by its unilateral prescriptions
will mollify it or make it soften its stand.
India should understand this, and insist on first getting
the border dispute resolved by a no-nonsense enunciation
of what it considers its core propositions: a. Until the dispute is resolved, China must stop printing and publication
of maps depicting its version of the disputed areas; b.
There should be no official pronouncements questioning
the status of areas which are inte-
gral part of India, such as
Arunachal Pradesh; c. Denial of
visas or discriminatory practices,
such as issue stapled visas, must
cease; d. The process of demarcat-
ing the border must be given a start
within a stated timeframe.
China must be made to realize
that it has no monopoly of core
interests. Over a period, China has
been adding to them, making them
out of bounds for the rest of the
world, and adopting aggressive
postures to enforce its own mod-ern-day version of the Monroe
At one stroke, China has brought
the South China Sea and Yellow
Sea and entire Korean peninsula
within its sphere of influence; it has
enlarged the scope of maritime
domination in strategic waters that
connect northeast Asia and the
Indian Ocean; and it has asserted
its interventionist rights over what-
ever has a bearing on its ‘core inter-
It may have a sobering effect on
China if India also draws up its
own list of inviolable, immutable
core interests and asks China to
adhere to them. An illustrative list:
It is time India did its own thing, without being both-
ered about what China or any other country, may think.
There is nothing that China is doing — whether it is
‘string of pearls’, grants and aids to other countries or
whatever else — that India cannot do after its own fashion
and within its own competence.
It need not be lip-reading China and regulating its
course on what would pass muster in China’s (or
American) eyes. On the contrary, it should forge and
assert its policies and strategies on its own independent
evaluation of its role and importance in the regional and
B S Raghavan is a former director, political and security
policy planning, at India’s home ministry; a former
secretary, National Integration Council and a former chief
secretary to the West Bengal government.
China’s President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Sabarmati riverfront in Ahmedabad, September 17.
The dragon will breathe fire
By timing its muscle-flexing in Ladakh to coincide with Xi’s visit, China made it evident that neither the swing-ride at Ahmedabad nor the red carpet at New Delhi worked, says B S Raghavan
AMI T DAVE/REUTERS